In February 2008, a report by the Study Group to Consider New Residential Colleges made it clear that should the undergraduate student body expand, the University would require additional fitness spaces.
Yet 11 months out from the opening of Pauli Murray and Benjamin Franklin Colleges, it remains to be seen what specific changes, if any, will be made to Yale’s athletic programs and facilities to accommodate the cohort of around 800 additional undergraduates who will come to campus by 2021.
The “Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation” section of the 2008 report noted that Payne Whitney Gymnasium is currently “packed from dawn until dusk almost every week of the year,” as evidenced by factors such as locker requests and lines to use the fitness equipment.
“From the locker requests in each of the men’s and women’s areas to the use of the intramural fields, to the lines of PWG members waiting to use the fitness equipment, the evidence is clear,” the report reads. “Addressing the burgeoning needs related to these activities, as well as scaling up to meet the needs of even more students, faculty and administrators will be essential if the College population increases.”
Perhaps most notably, the report recommended a second fitness center on Science Hill — separate from residential college gyms — to alleviate excess demand on Payne Whitney. The hope, the report said, was that the new center would draw students and reduce the “peak-hours rush” at Payne Whitney.
But something as large as a new athletic facility is not in the department’s current plans, Associate Athletic Director of Payne Whitney Gymnasium Anthony Diaz said. The idea originally submitted in the 2008 report was absent from a May 2014 report by the Ad Hoc Committee on Yale College Expansion.
Regarding increased demand for athletic facilities, the 14-page report said only that the “demand for indoor and outdoor athletic facilities will need to be monitored, with particular attention to maintenance of facilities and equipment.” It did not offer specific solutions for dealing with the increased demand.
While the two new residential colleges will have their own gyms, like all other residential colleges, Payne Whitney offers other facilities, such as swimming pools and squash courts, as well as a more extensive selection of weight-training equipment and cardio machines than residential college gyms.
Diaz acknowledged that the expansion of the residential colleges would be “both exciting and challenging,” and that “some” Athletic Department members had met with some members of the Yale administration about the topic.
“[The administration is] aware of the potential impact to our club sports, intramural and PWG programming,” Diaz said. “At PWG, we have recently expanded the hours of operation, which will be continue to be helpful with the influx of the new students.”
Those expanded hours refer to a policy change last spring when the University increased Payne Whitney’s hours of operation from 92 hours per week to the current 106 hours. That change was made primarily to meet the demands of graduate students, many of whom argued that they could not make it to the gym during its previous hours.
Other facets of Yale’s athletic life will also be affected by the surge of new students. Plans are also being made to deal with more students participating in both the Intramural and Club Sports programs, said Director of Club Sports Tom Migdalski.
“In intramurals, we are looking at several possible options for handling the new participants, including different divisional, bracketing and play-off formats,” Diaz said. “The impact to the club sports programs should be manageable, but the number of participants will surely grow a bit each year.”
He added that no decisions have been made yet, as the department is still “discussing possibilities.” Student input is also being taken into account for both programs.